These U.S. Cities Would Face Dire Health Consequences in a Nuclear Attack

With tensions between the United States and North Korea higher than ever, the threat of a nuclear attack has likely been on the minds of many Americans. Plus, with so many U.S. cities housing well over 1 million residents, there is great opportunity for massive tragedy.

Here are the top cities that would face serious health consequences in the event of a nuclear attack.

New York

New York City at dawn.

New York City might not have the resources to protect and care for its citizens. |

More than 8 million people call New York City home. Even with a slew of hospitals within the five boroughs, a nuclear attack could easily wipe out nearly 400,000 people right on impact. According to Express, anywhere from 50% to 90% of people within about seven miles of the blast zone would die from its health effects — in New York City, that would be millions.

These people would need immediate medical care for radiation effects like central nervous system dysfunction, uncontrolled bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea. Medical care would be hard to find with hospitals destroyed and so many people who need attention.

Los Angeles

The city of Los Angeles seen from a distance among palm trees.

Los Angeles would have trouble finding care for its residents. | Choness/iStock/Getty Images

Los Angeles holds nearly 4 million residents, so it’s another big potential target for a nuclear attack, should North Korea take action. Plus, it’s much closer to East Asia than New York. Although it wouldn’t have the death toll New York would have because of a smaller population, its more than 120 hospitals would have a hard time finding all of the resources needed to treat its huge population for the health effects they would experience.


The city of Chicago seen in the evening.

Protection and shelter would be a huge concern. | Ibsky/iStock/Getty Images

Chicago is known as “The Windy City.” With that in mind, wind can carry smaller particles of nuclear fallout, which could be a big problem for a city like Chicago. It’s possible that more people could be impacted in a city with high winds as opposed to a city with low winds because the fallout zone could stretch much wider.


The city of Houston seen in the evening.

The destruction would affect nearly 2 million people. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

Houston, we have a problem. With well over 2 million people, Houston is the fourth largest city in the country. Since hospitals would be more necessary than ever, the patient count would be extremely high. Plus, radiation would greatly effect electricity, leaving most hospitals unusable.

Houston’s only saving grace is its land size. It is more than double the size of New York at 627 square miles, so there could be some hospitals on the outskirts that can help it fare better than a place like The Big Apple.


The city of Philadelphia seen at dawn.

Philadelphia would have trouble covering medical care for everyone. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

At less than half the size of New York City, Philadelphia would be in big trouble. Its nearly 2 million residents could be completely inaccessible to medical help. Some long-term symptoms of radiation poisoning can takes weeks or even months to show up. Without medical attention, the effects would be even worse.

With Manhattan just over 100 miles away, it’s possible Philadelphians could be transported, but with the immediate effects of the blast, transportation would be down because of the electromagnetic pulse. Plus, Philly’s historic architecture might fare worse than a modern, steel-framed building, exposing even more people.


The city of Phoenix seen on a bright day.

Should Phoenix prepare for a big emergency? | Photoquest7

Phoenix’s large population of about 1.5 million makes it a target for a nuclear attack. Plus, Phoenix is far from any major cities. Tucson is 100 miles away, but with a population one third the size of Phoenix, its resources wouldn’t be enough. The next closest city is San Diego — more than 350 miles away. Getting proper medical attention for victims would be nearly impossible.


The city of Honolulu seen on a clear bright day.

The small state would not be prepared for such a catastrophe. | Maximkabb/iStock/Getty Images

This is the closest U.S. city to North Korea, so it’s potentially the most at risk. Honolulu is both the smallest of these cities and the least populated; it is also the most isolated. Getting medical help to Hawaii in a timely manner would be impossible because of its distance.

Plus, Hawaii only has about 30 hospitals, most of which would be either destroyed or greatly impacted because of the island’s small size. Residents would have no escape route, leaving Hawaiians stranded with very little medical resources.

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